MOBILITY CONCERNS: CATCHER EDITION
For most of my baseball career, I was a middle infielder. I wasn’t the biggest guy on the field, so I let my athleticism do the talking on the diamond.
I wanted to be the guy who could play multiple positions, and play them all well. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I taught myself how to become a catcher though.
Not only is catching hard on the mind, being the quarterback of the team, it is also hard on your body.
I strictly believe that my ability to be reactive, mobile, strong in a deep squat position, and quick for my size allowed me to be successful behind the plate without any outside coaching.
My goal is to help any position in the game of baseball. This article is giving back some love to the guys who get beat up on every game.
The Catcher position requires a lot physically and your joints need to be damn healthy to be able to perform well every day. Here is a joint by joint approach.
Joint by Joint Approach: Ankles
Most of the time, the catching population gets a little lazy in their deep squat. They are prone to a chronic stress on the inside of the ankle (ankle inversion) when sitting in the “catcher squat”.
Here is what the ankles should look like versus what they should not look like:
So, how can we fix it?
Banded ankle distractions! HERE is a really great video from the Prehab Guys
Stiff ankles put more stress on the hips, and this effects the rest of the kinetic chain on the way up. A catcher has to be mobile in the ankles in order to “sway” from one side of the plate to the other when framing pitches.
Joint by Joint Approach: Knees
When in a “catcher squat”, the knees are excessively pushed forward, putting a chronic stretch on the quads and chronic load on some of the hamstrings.
I suspect that a lot of catchers will lack terminal knee extension at some point during the season. I wish there were some research on it…
To steer clear of this speed bump, it is essential to make sure you are performing certain exercises to keep your knees healthy
This limitation will certainly effect your hips the most. When no one is one base, laziness can be put on the back burner. However, when there is a runner on base, imagine trying to get into your secondary catching position. Not fun!
As long as we understand that your ankles are connected to your knees, and your knees are connected to your hips, then the rest should be a piece of cake.
Joint by Joint Approach: Hips
Staying in a deep squat requires a TON of hip mobility and eccentric glue/hip strength. However, the biggest compensation I see is sitting into knee valgus and deep internal rotation at the hip.
To combat this, here are some exercises to open up the hips
Joint by Joint Approach: Lumbar, Thoracic, and Cervical Spine
A lot of catchers can develop an excessive lordotic and kyphotic curve, as well as forward head posture.
To reverse engineer this posture, we have to strengthen the core. Second, we have to provide exercises that put the player in a very rigid neutral spine posture.
I think front loaded carries are a good place to start. These can be performed with either a dumbbell, kettle bell, or any other object you can think of.
Forward head posture can effect the way you see the ball as it comes in. Pitchers don’t want to have a small target. Keeping your head tucked in like a turtle will put a beating on your neck and other postural muscles.
This is why cleaning up the entire scapulothoracic area can fix a bunch of problems. Here are a few exercises.
Joint by Joint Approach: Shoulders
I think it’s pretty obvious that catchers need just as much rotator cuff work as any other position. Not only this, but I think catchers need to have even MORE work on their non-throwing side as well.
Many times, some juvenile catchers don’t leave their glove-side elbow on their knee to give a target for the catcher. Instead, their glove-side is hovering in the middle of the strike zone and it makes it harder on the rotator cuff to go get a pitch.
I think some isometric holds and dynamic cuff work can be beneficial.
Joint by Joint Approach: Wrists
Lastly, catchers need a good amount of grip strength. Not only strength, but endurance, elasticity, and mobility all play together to make a great catcher.
I think elasticity is something that might be overlooked in the catching position. A strong wrist is great, and I love the whole rice bucket thing, but what about pitch framing? If your pitcher is pumping some chef, you gotta help him out by framing the pitch as quick as you can.
Here are some exercises that put everything together.
Stay strong, mobile, and quick!
Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS